The language of the magazine, such as "Make a bomb in the kitchen of
your mom," reflects either a poor command of English or a light-hearted
sense of self-parody. AQAP is not known for either. Awlaki, whose
location in Yemen makes his participation very plausible, is a native,
fluent, and very articulate English speaker. His fiery English-language
sermons are not funny.
(3) The magazine includes an essay by Abu
Mu'sab al-Suri. But Suri, whose connection to al-Qaeda is uncertain,
has been locked up in Guantanamo--and possibly a CIA black site--since
2005. However, as with bin Laden, it is possible the magazine simply
copied old statements.
(4) Analysts tell me that the
magazine PDF file either does not load properly or carries a trojan
virus. This is unusual because al-Qaeda and AQAP have produced and
disseminated such PDF publications many times without such problems. If
the report was produced by U.S. counterintelligence, or if the U.S. operatives attached the virus to the original file, would the trojan really be
so easily detectable by simple, consumer-grade virus scanners? Surely
U.S. counterintelligence has less detectable viruses at their disposal.
The web-based "jihadi" community itself seems suspicious. The report
has received little attention on web forums, especially given its apparent
importance. A publication including such high-profile figures would
normally receive far more attention than it has so far.
There are also reasons to doubt that the report was produced by U.S.
counterintelligence, as CI officials would likely know enough to edit
out these red flags. It's unclear who that leaves, but the most likely
culprit could simply be mischievous, if knowledgeable, pranksters in the
U.S. who wanted to disseminate a trojan virus among jihadi forum
visitors. That would also explain why the document was written in
Of course, none of these doubts are definitive and it
remains a significant possibility that the publication is authentic.
Leah Farrall, an AQAP expert and former Australian counterterrorism
official, expressed doubt about the publication but disputed some of the
cases against its authenticity.
"The make a bomb in the kitchen
of your mum is not by Awlaki. It may be an effort to play on an old
series of manuals released a few years back on how to build IED's from
materials in your home. Many readers would be familiar with these
manuals since some sections have been translated into English before. So
that by itself is not really enough to bring into question the
authenticity of the document," she wrote in an email. "The addition of
an al-Suri excerpt is curious, but not unexpected. AQAP ideologues have
mentioned his book before. So, this is also not enough to bring into
question the authenticity of the document."
It's not clear who produced this PDF and why. But there are some compelling reasons to doubt that it was produced by al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula for the purpose of spreading the group's message to English speakers.